Oh, No! It's A Referee Decision!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The gold comes rolling in for America! Or DOES it? Let's see what the officials say. It's Day 15 of the Vancouver Olympics!

• Before I say anything else, did you see the U.S. beat Finland 6-1 in hockey this afternoon? Not only was the game great, but those announcers are awesome! A good time was had by all. Well, unless you're Finnish.

• Greetings, Olympic buffs, says Bob to open the show. He's talking to me!

•  Tonight we start on Whistler Mountain with the Men's 4-Man Bobsled. The United States 1 sled is nicknamed "Night Train" by driver Steve Holcomb. Which night train is that? The Guns 'n' Roses version? The James Brown version? How about Marvin Berry and the Starlighters? The public wants to know! Regardless, they're going first (at least in Tape-Delay-O-Vision), so let's see how they do.

A new track record! Well, that's a good start.

• There doesn't seem to be as much slapping in the 4-man bobsled as there was in the 2-man. I don't have any theories for this. Analyst John Morgan points out that once the starting light goes green, the sleds only have a minute to leave, so maybe four people slapping each other just takes too long.

• BOOM! The Russian sled flips over halfway up the course and its riders slide the rest of the way down the course on their heads. They pass the finish line and since they're all still in the sled, the time counts, but they'll be out of medal contention.

• Jay Leno stars in a commercial for the Tonight Show where he pretends to have a lifelong passion to be a curler. One of the funnier parts of the ad is when a non-curling-talented Leno misthrows a stone which then knocks over a figure skater from behind. Impossible! Jay Leno would never attack someone's back!

• Off to another part of Whistler for the Women's Slalom in Tape-Delay-O-Vision.

• Germany's Maria Riesch and Lindsey Vonn like to spend some quality time together off the slopes. This fluff is only a minute-and-a-half long, so we don't learn much. They both like to shop! Shocker.

• The fluff, of course, leads up to Maria's first slalom run. First place! Again, shocker. I'm not saying that NBC set it up like that, just that Riesch is actually a favorite in this event.

• A couple of skiers later, Lindsey Vonn. AAA! Just moments after Christin Cooper tells us about Vonn's chaotic year she misses a gate! I guess fluff is only good for one person.

• The next U.S. skier is Sarah Schleper who starts this race with her "lion's roar." Roaring like a lion is only good for ninth place. You need to get some individual fluff, Sarah!

• Cris Collinsworth is going to talk to us tonight about Apolo Ohno. Oh wait! Ohno himself is going to talk about Ohno. In his own words, Apolo describes what he calls the "perfect" race, his gold medal in the Men's 500m in Turin. At least we don't have to listen to Cris talk about it, but it's still fluff.

• Quarterfinal one of the 500m features Canadian Charles Hamelin and U.S. skater Simon Cho. Hamelin qualifies, but Cho doesn't have the speed and finishes third in a race where only the top two advance.

Quarterfinal two has Ohno and some other skaters who won't matter. WOW! Two skaters go down and Ohno jumps around them to keep going! Amazing!

The other two quarterfinals have no Americans in them (leaders here if you're interested), but they do have some amazing camerawork. The slow-motion shot of Lee Ho-Suk making a pass was particularly sweet.

•  Next up on the ice is the Women's 1000m quarterfinals. This is a big night if you're a short track fan. Not that I'm a coach or anything, but I'm noticing a pattern here. Earlier we were shown a graphic on how many more medals the Koreans have won in short track than any other country. The Koreans almost always hang back in the pack until the last few laps, and then they make their passing moves. The results seem pretty obvious. I'm surprised more countries don't try this.

•  The lone American in this event is Katherine Reutter, who is trying to be the first U.S. woman to win a short track medal of any color since 1994 Games in Lillehammer. Any color? That doesn't even seem possible, does it? Yet it is. She wins her quarterfinal.

• Over to Speed Skating Team Pursuit. Or rather, over to a recap of it. Bob gives us a little explanation, but not enough for my tastes. The way I understand it, there are two teams of three skaters each racing on opposite sides of the speed skating oval. But Dan Hicks and Dan Jansen kind of give away the ending when they tell us in advance that the U.S. team led by Chad Hedrick beat the Dutch team led by Sven Kramer, who increasingly seems to be the angriest skater in the world.

NBC then shows us the footage for the last minute of the race, which includes Sven getting angry at his coach again. This wasn't a medal round, we're told afterwards. I get the distinct impression that NBC was caught off-guard by the Americans beating the Dutch skaters and didn't know what to do with this story.

• And now the Men's 500m semifinals. Ohno isn't in the first heat, but we do get to see Cris Collinsworth interview Apolo's father. Riveting.

• Ohno's heat is next. He starts in second. Drops to third. Two laps to go, still in third. A Korean falls down! Last lap! He moves to second, NO! FIRST! WOW! Ohno went from third to second on the first turn, and from second to first on the last turn. Don't retire, Apolo!

• Back to the ladies for the 1000m semifinals. Did Australia get their short track uniforms from the Tron surplus store?

• Katherine Reutter's race false starts twice, and analyst Andy Gabel tells us that it's like in baseball, when a pitcher must come to a complete stop before he pitches. Interesting. Could a short track skater advance to the next round due to a balk? Reutter wins the semifinal.

• And now some interview fluff with Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette. Most of the interview is predictable, given her mother dying and her winning the bronze medal. However, Bob does sneak an interesting fact in there, when he finds out that she learned English in part from her mom making her watch "Scooby Doo." Zoinks!

• Back at the short track, the Men's 500m "B" final. Really, who cares?

• The main event! The Men's 500m final stars Ohno, but also features Korean Sung Si-Bak, and Canadians Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay. Ohno might be the popular choice, but this isn't going to be a gimme. You can bet the crowd is going to be pulling for a gold-silver Canada finish.

And here we go! Ohno starts in fourth. Three laps to go, he's still in fourth. Korea's Sung passes up to first with two laps left. Last lap! LAST TURN! Apolo tries to pass! Two skaters fall! Apolo in second! Hamelin in first!

But wait!! The officials are talking... OH, NO! Ohno is disqualified! Officials claim that he pushed Tremblay on that last corner, so he's been DQ'ed. Psh! Canadian officials decided that Canadian skaters got pushed? Hmmmmmm...

• Back in time and back to the mountain for the second run of the Women's Slalom. Again Schleper roars, but again she gets ninth place. Given that she was the highest placing American, my guess is that from now on we're only going to see the winners.

• Steve Porino does a neat demonstration with the slalom poles at the race. Volunteers on the course are wiping the snow off the poles after each skier goes by, but if they don't, says Porino, "they'll do this," and he bangs the pole against the camera, showering the lens with water, similar to how it would obscure a skiers goggles. Very nice!

• Live-ish Cris Collinsworth with Apolo Ohno. Ha! Apolo thinks the Canadian ref might have something to do with it, too! One of the advantages of this being his last Olympics is he can say things like that without worrying about future officials taking it out on him.

• We see four other racers at the Women's Slalom. The first, Susanne Riesch, Maria's sister, misses a gate and is out. The other three, including Maria, all medal. Told ya! By the way, I'm so confident that I know how NBC thinks, I wrote the previous sentence before Maria made her last run. Of course, had she fallen, I would have deleted it and you never would have known, so that's really not that impressive, is it?

• Let's see if an American woman in a race without Canadians will be allowed to medal. We're back for the Women's Short Track 1000m final. Wang Meng of China is the big favorite in this one. Sure enough, she wins, but Katherine Reutter hangs on for silver, winning the first short track medal for an American woman in 16 years. Now we're all Reutter rooters!

• Oh yes, it's Ohno! He and the rest of the American team are competing in the madness that is the 5000m short track relay final. In this case it's even crazier because there are five teams instead of four, because France was advanced from the semifinal round. You didn't remember that? Me neither. I had to look it up.

Anyway, this is a long race, so with 44 laps to go, I'm going to make a sandwich, knowing that no ones going to make a move until the last ten laps or so, anyway.

Sure enough, with 10 laps to go, Canada starts to try stretch their lead. Six laps to go: Canada still waaay out in front. Four laps to go: the U.S. still behind. Here comes Ohno. Two laps to go! Ohno's in but the U.S. drops to fourth! LAST LAP! AAAA!! Ohno stretches out right at the end to get the bronze and knock China into fourth! Man, this sport is awesome. Canada gets another gold medal tonight. At least no one's going to take away America's bronze.

• Back to the 4-man Bobsled, with US1 currently in first place.

The US2 sled goes first. It's on its record best speed and-- OHH! It flips over! They still cross the finish line so technically they could still medal. You know, if everyone else in front of them flips over, too.

I don't know whether or not this is fluff, but Steve Holcomb's teammate shows us "The Holcky Dance." It was a play off of Holcomb's name and "The Humpty Dance." For future reference, you really don't ever want to see men dressed in bobsled tights limp to the side like their leg was broken, shakin' and twitchin' kinda like they was smokin'.

Holcomb and US1 finish the second round with a new track record AGAIN and finish in first place! Good for them! Let's hope they don't dance for joy.

• It's time for the "Oh, Canada" sing-a-long for Charles Hamelin's 500m gold medal. He sings but looks morose while he's doing it. You just won a gold medal, Charles, be happy!

• And now, LIVE to hockey, where Canada has a 3-2 lead over Slovakia with just 2:30 left in the game. Apparently, Canada was up 3-0 early and has let the Slovaks back in the game. One minute left: an empty net for Slovakia! THEY SHOOT, THEY-- don't score. Which means it will be the U.S. and Canada in the final on Sunday.

So, the other day I checked Stubhub for gold medal hockey tickets and they were $2,700 each. How much are they now that Canada is confirmed as a finalist? Let's check! $4,700 a piece? This is why I watch on TV.

• Back in the studio, Jimmy Fallon has brought an audience with him so he can do his Olympic-themed "thank you notes" bit in an NBC self-promotion moment. Okay, it's funny, particularly Bob fake-playing the piano. I've got to say that Costas is a great straight man. The best part is that Bob can keep a straight face through all of this while Fallon keeps laughing. I'll even admit that I laughed throughout. But it's still fluff.

Is this the last we see of Ohno? I hope not, because he's a blast to watch. But the way he seems to be burning referee bridges behind him I can't see much of a future. Only two days to go. Let's hope they're good ones! See you tomorrow!